Edmonton Psychologist | Managing Emotions

Healthy relationships do not just happen by chance. They take work and for some people that work is tough depending on triggers, experience, skills, and desires. When relationships are going well it is hard to remember a time when you have had difficulty working through issues. Alternatively, you could also find your relationships uneasy and in fact struggle from one to the next or year over year in the same one.

You may find you keep coming up to the same issue and that is when it is a perfect time to seek the help of a professional such as ReDiscover Psychology. The therapists and psychologists there specialize in treating the couple within a relationship.

Managing Emotions

One of the key issues found in many relationships is managing emotions. This means you feel overwhelmed with emotion during conflict in the relationship. It is not bad to have conflict, but it should be worked through in a healthy way so that no one is hurt or damaged. When couples finally seek help its typical to see one person is a pursuer and one is a withdrawer. This means the pursuer wants to fix the conflict and make the argument stop. They will persist until a solution is found.

However, the other person is usually a withdrawer. They need time away to calm down or think more clearly. They do not need to solve things right away. We may find ourselves in one of the other positions but ultimately we all get emotionally flooded. If you find yourself overwhelmed and do not know how to work through the emotional flooding here are five healthy ways to manage it.

The main emotion to keep in check

The first one is to identify that you feel overwhelmed with emotion. There is a scale that is used to do this. The SUD scale stands for subjective units of distress. You would use this scale to find where you are on the spectrum. Zero means you are relaxed like as if you are asleep. Ten is the opposite where you feel strong emotions that are overwhelming your capability to function.

Once you identify where you are at any given time on this scale you are aware of your emotions. The trick is to identify where you are on the scale while you are in conflict in your relationship. It is important to do self check-ins daily to become an expert at identifying and managing emotions. If you are aware of your body and emotions you are doing well with self-awareness.

Most people are not aware of these things within their own body. Always keep in mind we do not go to a ten on the SUD scale automatically, there are steps along the way, and we must slow down and become aware of our progression.

The second way to manage emotional flooding, is to take steps to deescalate before it passes the point of tolerance. Once we have identified the feelings in our body, where we are at on the SUD scale, we can then put certain actions in place to deescalate the emotions. Some ideas here would be to go for a walk or play a videogame but really doing anything nonharmful would work to help you calm your nervous system. The goal is to bring the emotions to a tolerable level.

Multiple ways of managing emotions

A third way to manage emotional flooding is to allow your partner the space to self-soothe. As mentioned earlier couples come into therapy and one partner is usually the pursuer meaning they want to end the argument and find a solution. However, the other partner is a withdrawer and needs time away from the situation in order to deal with the emotional flooding they feel.

This is not a terrible thing, but it is important to be aware in the moment of conflict that this is going on, so you deal with it in a healthy way. When you come to therapy, you learn how to identify this situation then learn the communication tools needed to work through it. The person who needs the space must be able to communicate the need.

Effective communication is very important

When managing emotions, it is equally important that the pursuer does not feel abandoned especially if there are abandonment issues already. That partner needs to know the relationship is not over but rather that the withdrawer wants to save the relationship and by self-soothing they can do this.

The fourth area to manage emotional flooding is to accept your partners influence and repair. If your partner is trying to take responsibility and repair the relationship it is important to accept that. They are making the necessary repair attempt by taking ownership. This can also help deescalate the emotions and even stabilize the partner who is flooded. This step can not be emphasized enough.

Last but not least

The last way to manage emotional flooding is to recognize your partner’s triggers and approach gently through gentle start up. If we know our partner’s triggers we can learn to not press the buttons that will ultimately add pain. If we push the buttons anyway that is contemptuous and is the most detrimental thing for the relationship. Lots of damage is done and it takes a long time to heal.

When we are managing emotions, and we know something is going to hurt our partner we can use a gentle start up approach when dealing with the conflict. Examples of how this sounds is; “I feel this….,” “This is why I feel this way….,” and “I need this from you…..”

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There is no shame in seeking couple’s therapy. It is an affirmation that you value each other and the relationship. When you seek the help of the professionals at ReDiscover, you can expect to learn how to move through conflict in a healthy way. Conflict is not a bad thing but how we deal with it whether we are dating, common law or married makes the difference.

The goal is to increase intimacy once we learn how to conflict in a positive way. We can always feel and give respect to our partner while we have empathy and understanding present in our relationship.